Silent Hill [1999]

A lot of movies can be described as "dripping with atmosphere," but in the case of Silent Hill it's literally true. Faithfully adapted from the Konami video games by French director Christophe Gans and Pulp Fiction cowriter Roger Avary (both self-confessed video game addicts), this dark and grisly horror-fest is nothing if not a triumph of cinematography and production design, consisting of a minimal and mostly incoherent plot propped up by a mysterious maze of sets that literally seep, drip, and ooze with the atmospheric evil of past misdeeds. Welcome to the abandoned and perpetually foggy ghost town of Silent Hill, where grey ash falls like snow, a devastating coal-mine fire still burns in a hellish underground, and demons of various shapes and sizes make your worst nightmares seem like a walk in the park. It's here that distressed mother Rose (played by Pitch Black heroine Radha Mitchell) has taken her daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) in hopes of discovering the source of Sharon's sleepwalking nightmares. What they find instead is a burned-out legacy of unspeakable evil, as Silent Hill's dark secrets are revealed. As opposing denizens of Silent Hill's meta-morphing underworld, Canadian actresses Alice Krige and Deborah Kara Unger seem to be the only ones who recognize this morbid mess as campy comedy; Gans (who established his visual flair with The Brotherhood of the Wolf) and Avary take it far too seriously, and the entire movie is utterly devoid of any emotional hooks or plot logic that would make us care about anything that happens. In crafting a loyal big-screen rendition of Silent Hill and its Playstation sequels, they've forgotten that movies play by a different and more demanding set of rules. As a result, they've made an impressive-looking but ultimately hollow horror film that only Silent Hill game-players can truly appreciate. --Jeff Shannon

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